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Beta: Richard's Chew Toy - thank you!
“Tell me, what news this morn?” Glorfindel reined his steed to stand beside his friend and fellow captain Ecthelion’s horse.

Briefly Ecthelion regarded Glorfindel and then looked back to the scene playing out down the pathway. Beside one of the more common cottages three young ellith were weeping as a slave trader went about his business tying their hands together and then to a length of chain that connected them and wound around their waists. There was another elf, a lanky ellon who looked barely past his majority, if that. He was already bound and staring emotionlessly at the sky with his chin tilted up proudly. “I do not know,” admitted Ecthelion.

The pair of elf-lords waited and watched as it was not the business of the elite to involve themselves in the affairs of the common-folk. From within the cottage came an older ellon and Sarnion, the owner of the horse-race track.

“Know you him?” asked Glorfindel of Ecthelion, pointing toward the ellon at the door with the tip of his riding crop. Ecthelion did not answer but instead raised his hand in order to silence Glorfindel. When the elf with the dark hair coaxed his horse forward to better hear the conversation Glorfindel followed suit.

“...and as we agreed, if we are able to get enough from the sale of fewer than all of your children the others will be returned to you.” Sarnion looked to the slave trader and made a dismissive motion to him. Giving Sarnion a nod, the trader yanked the chain connecting the four young elves together and they began to follow him up the path the elf-lords were coming down.

The older ellon tried to come around Sarnion in answer to the renewed weeping from the three ellith, but his path was blocked. “Do I not get to say farewell to them?”

“You care very little of them to give them in trade for your gambling debts,” Sarnion said with a smirk. “I do not even believe your son wishes to say good-bye to you at the moment. Now, let us go back inside to go over the contract once again.” Sarnion steered the ellon back into the house.

As the slave trader came closer to the horses and their riders, he paused and bowed his head. The young ellon behind him nearly trampled into him for his head had been bowed as he walked, and the ellith into him so that chaos ensued.

“Disrespectful swine!” The trader shoved the ellon back into the she-elves. “On your knees and bow to the lords before you!” The trader roughly placed his hand upon one of the ellith’s shoulders and shoved her to the ground. The young ellon despite being chained and manacled at the wrists lifted both hands and struck the trader’s shoulder.

“Do NOT touch my sister again!” he shouted.

By now both Ecthelion and Glorfindel had stopped their descent and watched the newest development. The trader threw the chain he had been holding down to the ground and went to the elf-lords. Bowing upon one knee he said to them, “Pardon, your lordships. They have no manners.” Standing again, he looked at the riding crop Glorfindel was holding. “May I, your lordship?”

Without thinking, Glorfindel handed the crop to the trader who once again bowed. Then he turned and looked with vengeance upon the youth.

“You will not touch ME again!” The trader drew back his arm and struck the young ellon in the same place he had been hit. Flinching, the youth took a step back but then came forward again and stood his ground. “Now, I said, on your knees. On your knees!” The trader came around the young ellon and began to strike his upper back and arms while the ellith dropped to their knees and begged their brother to join them.

“Hold.” Ecthelion tugged his reigns forward and looked down at the youngling. He held out his hand for the crop, and the trader gave it to him. Placing the bloodied strap of leather beneath the young ellon’s chin, Ecthelion forced the youth to look up. “Why dost thou not bow before your most benevolent lords?”

“I see no benevolence, only greed. I see no pity, only cruel curiosity.”

Ecthelion bristled at the comments and drew back his arm. With one stroke, he could kill a fly upon his horse’s hide without causing the horse to flinch but he chose now to use the crop to cut a deep lash across one of the young ellon’s cheeks. “Take a knee to me, boy, or next I shall striketh your throat.”

Defiance was still in his eyes, but the ellon took to one knee. “Both of them.” Ecthelion waited until the elf was knelt upon the ground. “Lower,” he said.

Fighting an obvious urge to either cry or flee, the ellon lowered himself down upon the path, his face in the dirt and his arms digging painfully into his ribs in front of him. “There you are,” said Ecthelion to the trader as he handed the crop back to Glorfindel. “They need only the right motivation for them to do as thou would like them to. Am I to assume these four shall be available for purchase come the dawn?”

“That is both true and not quite so, m’lord. They are to be sold but at auction and not the market.”

“How interesting.” Ecthelion gave the ellon on the ground one final passing glance as he spurred his horse. “How very interesting.”

“Peace and good fortune to you, m’lords!” called the trader as the pair on horseback continued on their way. They did not as much as look behind them as they traveled on to the house.

It was as they were dismounting that Sarnion emerged from the house. He whistled merrily to himself as he rolled up a scroll. Upon seeing the lords approach he bowed immediately but did not bow so low as the trader had. “Peace to you this day, my lords. How may I be of service?”

“My curiosity it great, Sarnion. Tell me, how oft dost thou partake in the business of slave trading?” asked Ecthelion.

“It is merely a passing fancy I would hope.” Sarnion closed the door to the rundown home and motioned toward another path that would lead to a communal garden. Ecthelion’s lip twitched at the idea of setting foot in the public area but he walked beneath the archway woven of roses despite this. Having relatives of a lower class, Glorfindel was not so loathe to follow. “What is your interest in the matter?”

“My interest lies with rebellious one who hath the ink-colored eyes and hair. Me thinks he may be a challenge for you to sell.”

“Ah, but you do not know the entire story.” Sarnion paused at a bush of white roses and plucked from it the fullest, brightest of the blooms. “His father, Eregil, has outstanding debts at my parlors and at the racing dens. Extensive outstanding debts. Eregil’s solution in the past was to sell his land and then his inheritance and finally whatever he had left. I have never seen a house so bare as his, and children so deprived. His wife passed some years ago and I took pity upon him and gave him time to repay me. Then I learned he has been coming in disguise to the races, betting and using false names. I can only imagine the debt he incurred from those visits which I shall never see.”

The flower was tossed into a stream as they passed it by. Glorfindel frowned as he watched the petals take on a dirty yellowish brown hue. He stepped carefully over a puddle and brought out a handkerchief, which he used to cover his mouth and nose as they walked.

“So you came to collect and having nothing he gave up his children in payment,” said Ecthelion.

Sarnion tilted his head to one side, then the other. “It is a bit more complex than that. I do not deal myself in the buying and selling of flesh. When Eregil made the proposal I had to speak to a colleague who knows the market. Three young, fair maids will surely fetch a good price – even one might pay off the debt completely. The cocky little brat may not sell for as well as his sisters, but he is young. And unused.”

To these comments, Ecthelion looked even more interested than before. Glorfindel furrowed his brow. “You are expecting them to be sold as toys, not as workers, then?”

“I care not what they are sold for, so long as I am paid my due.” Sarnion stopped and turned to face Ecthelion. “Would you care to schedule an inspection of the whelp before tomorrow morn? For you, my lord, I could have such a thing arranged.”

“I hath not the time and I taketh your word that he is fresh and clean.” Ecthelion wet his lips and gave a sharp whistle. “Tomorrow my schedule is full as well, but if you are sure he will be available in the morning-“

“Oh, indeed, my lord. Following market open he will be the first to be sold.”

Nodding, Ecthelion said only, “Good. Be sure he has been bathed. If I shall have need to cancel my appointments in order to be present, I intend to have time to enjoy him before my evening patrol.” As he spoke, the sound of his horse approaching could be heard clearer and clearer. Turning to Glorfindel, Ecthelion said, “It has turned out to be a more eventful morning than I anticipated, but now I must take my leave. Good day to you, Glorfindel.”

“And to you, Ecthelion.” Glorfindel watched his friend mount and ride off as Sarnion showed reverence to both of them. For a moment, Glorfindel looked as if he might say something more to Sarnion, but instead he simply walked away.
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